Responding to COVID-19

Speeches Shim

Monday, October 19, 2020
Elvira Spasoli is providing homecare services in Shuto Orizari
Tomislav Georgiev


Elvira Spasoli is a 44-year-old Roma woman, a wife, and a mother of four children. She and her family live in Shuto Orizari, a low-income neighborhood in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia. It is the world’s only Roma-majority municipality with Roma accounting for over 60 percent of the population.

Over the years, Elvira has tried many times to find a job to provide a better life for her family. Success had been elusive until, one day, she learned from a relative about the civil society organization Health Education and Research Association (HERA), and its social enterprise “Nega Plus,” which employs Roma women as caregivers for the elderly.

After many years of unemployment, “Nega Plus” offered her the opportunity to experience the benefits of formal employment and the joy of working so that she can provide for herself and her family.  "My grandmother raised me from the age of two months and that is why I sincerely and with all my heart want to help older people,” Elvira explained when asked what inspired her to join Nega Plus.

The elderly are among the most vulnerable citizens. The pandemic has dramatically worsened their situation due to all the restrictions needed to protect them from COVID-19.  The health crisis left many families with reduced income, calling into question non-family providers of homecare for elderly family members.  The new situation directly affected Elvira’s work as well – the number of “Nega Plus” beneficiaries drastically decreased, primarily because families could no longer afford these services.

Yet, in every crisis lies an opportunity.  Driven by the need to help the most vulnerable citizens, HERA, through “Nega Plus”, began providing home care services for the elderly and shopping assistance for families with children with disabilities in the municipalities of Karposh, Kisela Voda, and Shuto Orizari.  Thanks to USAID’s support, which was channeled through its Civic Engagement Project, many families are receiving help, and many people, like Elvira, remain employed to help those in need during these challenging times.

For more information about USAID’s Civic Engagement Project and how it has supported the national response to COVID-19 in North Macedonia, please visit the project’s website: